13 Energy Records Smashed in 2017
The UK made huge steps in reducing emissions and creating greener energy last year. But there are still obstacles ahead.
Energy companies are congratulating themselves following the most successful year yet in the history of renewable energy generation. Wind and solar power is taking up more of the strain every year, and in April, the nation had its first 24 hour period in which it used no coal power whatsoever since the Industrial Revolution.
However, behind the good news stories, there is still work to be done. The reduced use of coal has placed even more reliance on natural gas than it has on renewables. And with a national infrastructure that comes close to meltdown whenever there are any sort of extreme weather conditions, power networks are more vulnerable than they have ever been.
Backups for homes and businesses
The increased vulnerability comes at a time when we are more reliant on having a reliable and consistent power supply than ever. It is little wonder that households as well as businesses are opting to take matters into their own hands, and generator hire services have never been in greater demand.
It is not just a matter of keeping the heating on, the freezer running and the TV blaring, important though all these things might be to us in the 21st century. An ever-growing number of people work remotely and their livelihoods rely on being able to get online whenever they need to. For home business owners and freelancers, no power means no money at the end of the month, and it is a risk they just can’t afford to take.
Traditionally, the UK’s power has been generated using a combination of coal, gas, nuclear and renewables. Government initiatives have significantly increased the energy generated by renewables, while reducing coal usage to almost nothing.
On the face of it, this is highly laudable, but while wind and solar are now significant contributors to the national grid, their effectiveness is, by nature, weather dependent. To put the achievements into context, wind generated more energy than gas on only two days in 2017. Gas outperformed all renewables added together on more than 90 percent of days.
The consequences are twofold. On the one hand, while all the focus and investment is on the renewable generation methods, such as new wind turbines, the main reliance is on a natural gas infrastructure that is outdated and over-stretched.
Inevitably, this means an increased risk of power outages when the system comes under any degree of additional strain. However, it also suggests that the UK will struggle to meet emission targets in the coming years.
A golden age?
Certain sectors of the media have been quick to leap on the great results of 2017 and hail a new golden age of renewable energy. However, while the achievements to date have without doubt been worth celebrating, there is still a long way to go before we are anywhere close to such a utopian vision. And in the meantime, the people of the UK will keep doing what they must to keep the lights on and the internet connected.